Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay is the struggle heritage capital of South Africa prescribing investment in both the preservation of the democratization history of South Africa as well as infrastructure development to unlock economic opportunities.
This strategic view was shared by Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Benson Fihla, affectionately known as Oom Ben, and Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, Chief Executive of the National Heritage Council, at the launch of the Liberation Heritage Route Booklet on 24 May 2013.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is the second municipality in the country to launch such a booklet as the Chris Hani District Municipality launched theirs first.
“If you take the history of the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay away from that of the national liberation struggle in the country, a large piece of the anti-apartheid history will be taken away from the national history archives. At this point we have not yet copied what others are doing across the world to preserve their history and to economically benefit in the process. The Dan Qeqe Stadium was a regular meeting place of revolutionaries,” Mayor Fihla, himself a phenomenal persona in the freedom struggle, said.
Advocate Mancotywa agreed and suggested that the Eastern Cape rebrand itself as the province of resistance as no other South African province can surpass its struggle history. “Strategic investment in this regard must be made and the economic benefits from tourism will follow,” he said.
Oom Ben, an author of a book on heritage himself, said through the process of highlighting our history, more employment opportunities must be created to boost the economy of the region in our continued efforts to break the shackles of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“I urge the communities of Nelson Mandela Bay to own, appreciate and embrace the heritage sites that seek to commemorate, respect and appreciate the political battles for the realization of a democratic South Africa. The Metro is committed in rewriting its own history that will feed into the Eastern Cape Provincial and South African Liberation Heritage Routes,” Oom Ben added.
The Executive Mayor was also the leader of a Task Team that produced a book called Eastern Cape ANC History that was launched during the Centenary Celebration of the liberation movement last year.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Liberation Heritage Route Booklet contains fascinating information of the anti-apartheid struggle and will be made available at all municipal libraries soon.
The full keynote address of Executive Mayor Benson Fihla appears below:
Program Director, Portfolio Chairperson – Councillor Magopeni, Mayoral Committee Members Present, Councillors, CEO of the National Heritage Council – Advocate Mancotywa, Acting Executive Director – Mr Anele Qaba, Municipal Officials, Distinguished Guests, Comrades, Members of the Media;
This event reminds me of memories of our struggle in the 50s in this area when we were united to defeat the apartheid regime. It is here where we launched the people’s program the defiance campaign, the Mandela Plan to establish grassroots participation structures and the volunteer program. The volunteers of our movement such as the late Comrade Nangoza Jebe were instrumental in speaking to the masses of the people to make a difference in their lives through joining the people’s glorious movement, the African National Congress.
The establishment of the Red Location Museum was not an accident. It was meant for us, the people of Nelson Mandela Bay to recognize where we come from, to tell the history and the past atrocities by the apartheid colonial government. People of our country fought for our liberation ever since we were invaded in 1652. The founding of the ANC in 1912 was a culmination of efforts to build a united front against the forces of darkness led by the apartheid colonial regime. Some of the critical components of that history are now written and available.
It was out of such heroic struggles and selfless contributions that the ANC recognized the area of Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape in general as the heartland of the freedom struggle and the political home of the African National Congress. That reality is informed by the fact that the largest number of heroes and heroines who have made a significant contribution in the struggle came from this area. Many plans that were meant to change the lives of the people for the better were developed in this area. Hence it is no exaggeration to say that many cadres of our glorious people’s army, uMkhonto weSizwe, came from the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay in particular. This is the City that developed the concept of Amabutho, revolutionaries who were meant to take forward the struggle through various means that included amongst others mobilisation for bus boycotts, business boycotts and stay aways.
When we meet here today we need to recognize the contribution made by many stalwarts of our movement who fought for us to be able to realize the dreams of the Freedom Charter.
When people met as the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955, they reflected as follows:
- “We the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know; that
- South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim the authority unless it is based on the will of the people,
- Our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality,
- That our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities,
- Only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of color, race, sex or belief,
- And therefore , we the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter,
- And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.
Ladies and gentlemen these words continue to bring memories of what our dearest heroes and heroines have done for our country. These men and women fought for us to change our society for the better. Today, we are here to say, “yes indeed as people of Nelson Mandela Bay we have made a difference, this heritage route booklet launch bear testimony to that. We have started to write a book about the history of the struggle of Nelson Mandela Bay. This initiative will be reinforced with what we have done.
Nelson Mandela Bay has always been the centre of the struggles that were waged to defeat the apartheid colonial regime. This Region suffered the most repression and suppression; as a result it has produced many gallant fighters, heroes and heroines that made Apartheid South Africa ungovernable and apartheid unworkable.
When we launch this booklet we should remember the contribution made by the heroes and heroines amongst others Dr Jongwe, Mbeki, Mhlaba, Baardt, Matomela, Tshaka, Mabhuda, Damons, Thole, Jebe, Mkhalipi, Mayekiso, Jinta, Tshume, Kayingo, Mini, Jonas, Mpentse, Mdlankomo, Nqini, Mabhala, Malgas, Cosas 2 and Pebco 3, Kobese and many other heroes and heroines.
The Liberation Heritage Route Booklet presents an opportunity for the city to be recognized for its efforts in the struggle for peace, freedom and democracy. This booklet also educates the communities and the youth known as the born frees to understand and appreciate the political milestones of the Metro. The City calls on the domestic and international tourists to visit the heritage sites that form part of the Liberation Heritage Route. A lot more is coming. I urge the hunted to tell their own stories. The platform is available to them. Our history is our wealth. Through the process of highlighting our history, more employment opportunities must be created to boost the economy of the region in our continued efforts to break the shackles of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
I urge the communities of Nelson Mandela Bay to own, appreciate and embrace the heritage sites that seek to commemorate, respect and appreciate the political battles for the realization of a democratic South Africa. The Metro is committed in rewriting its own history that will feed into the Eastern Cape Provincial and South African Liberation Heritage Routes. The Nelson Mandela Bay Liberation Heritage Route Booklet is now officially launched.
Nkosinathi Benson Fihla
Executive Mayor, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality